Why study drama, theatre & performance?

A degree in drama, theatre and/or performance will enable you to combine creative and analytical approaches in undertaking your studies.

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A UK strength

The fields of drama, theatre and performance are one of the most important contributors to the UK’s cultural economy. Working in the field of drama, theatre and performance leads to multiple avenues for work, experience and, importantly, fun. In higher education, the UK can proudly boast of its world-leading research, scholarship and teaching in this field.

A creative discipline

A degree in drama, theatre and/or performance will enable you to combine creative and analytical approaches in undertaking your studies. It develops your capacity:

  • to be innovative and experimental
  • to develop exceptional presentation and communication skills
  • to be adaptable, responsive and flexible
  • to communicate effectively
  • to work collaboratively and independently
  • to work across disciplines
  • to connect your studies to the world around you

It connects both to its own professional context within the creative industries and provides a foundation for a whole range of careers.

A route to employment

According to Prospects, the UK’s official graduate careers website, “the creative arts industry employs around 700,000 people UK wide and contributes 24.8 billion to the UK economy each year”, with a lot of work within micro businesses or on a self-employed basis.

Starting salaries for graduates from creative arts degrees, including theatre, drama, performance and dance and film, are between £18,000–£21,000. The most recent findings from The Complete University Guide, has found that 71% are employed or pursuing further studies.

According to Prospects:

What do drama graduates do?

15% of drama graduates are working in artistic, literary and media occupations 15 months after graduation. 8% are teaching professionals, 2% are in design occupations and 1% are working as media professionals.

Designation Percentage
Employed 72.4
Further Study 5.6
Working & studying 9.1
Umemployed 6
Other 6.9


If you’re thinking of studying for a degree in Drama, Theatre, Performance or a related subject then you’ve come to the right place. DramaHE is an organisation which represents drama, theatre and performance in UK higher education. DramaHE can count over 75 UK university drama, theatre and performance departments as members, so the information here has broad representation. You’ll find lots of useful help and guidance on the following pages.

What is a drama, theatre or performance degree?

Looking at the expectations that courses in Drama, Theatre and Performance have to meet and the qualifications you’ll need.

Why study drama, theatre or performance?

Combine creative and analytical approaches in undertaking your studies and find a good route into employment.

DRAMA, theatre or performance and employability

What kind of graduates do employers want, and what types of jobs do Drama graduates find?

WHAT is a drama degree?

Drama, Theatre and Performance as a subject community covers degrees as different as single subject vocational degrees in acting, lighting design or stage management; multi-disciplinary programmes such as in performing arts; programmes with an historical focus; and degrees which focus on contemporary performance studies.

There are also programmes which allow you to combine two (sometimes three) different subjects, typically called Joint or Combined degrees across different subjects. These combinations may also vary in the extent to which you spend time in each subject, with Major combinations allowing you to concentrate more in one area, less in your Minor subject.

Make sure, then, when looking for a degree that you look carefully at the titles of the programmes on offer and the descriptions of them provided in prospectuses.

SHARED values

All these degrees have to meet a UK-wide standard set out by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA): the Subject Benchmarks for Dance, Drama and Performing Arts. How they do this will vary from programme to programme and from institution. It does mean, however, that there are some expectations which all courses have to meet.

What qualifications do I need to study drama?

There is no single list of required qualifications to study Drama, Theatre or Performance. It is important, however, that your qualifications and experience enable you to meet the challenges of your degree. You will need to be able to demonstrate the ability to work across different modes of study (including practice, reading, reflection and research); to communicate your ideas in different formats and media (writing, presentations, workshops and performances); and in different settings and roles (individually, in group projects).

DRAMA, theatre & performance and employability

What kind of graduates do employers want?

According to Prospects, “leaving university with a good degree is a pre-requisite in the graduate employment market, but this alone is not enough to secure your first graduate job”. Look at the skills that employers say they want and it’s clear that Drama graduates are well-placed to meet the needs of employers.

Skills you will learn as a student in the fields of Drama,
Theatre & Performance:

  • independence
  • collaborative working
  • confidence
  • self-presentation
  • teamwork and collaboration
  • time management and organisational skills
  • self-awareness
  • self-discipline
  • an open mind and the ability to move beyond boundaries and
    experiment with different ideas
  • communication skills
  • analytical, critical and research skills
  • stamina
  • flexibility
  • creatively respond to a variety of influences and stimuli
  • playful exploration

What kinds of jobs?

Drama graduates go on to do a wide range of things. As well as jobs within the theatre and related creative industries such as acting, directing, stage and event management, script writing and technical theatre, graduates may also take up careers in the following sectors:

  • Education;
  • Commercial and public sector management;
  • Social/Welfare;
  • Marketing/sales/advertising;
  • Business/financial

You can find a breakdown of what recent Drama graduates do on
the Higher Education Careers Services Unit website.

Five key data points

  1. Creative arts graduates are more likely to work in non-graduate roles than the average for all graduates (41% compared to 28%). Setting up their own enterprises, working in a number of temporary/freelance roles, and supporting societal and non-government organisations is equivalent.
  2. On average, creative arts graduates are three times more likely to be working in freelance/self-employed roles.
  3. Creative arts graduates are less likely to go on to further study (4.7%) compared to the average across all subjects(9.2%).
  4. Completing a creative arts postgraduate course can lead to higher graduate earnings in the creative industries. We do not have the data to align PG study with their previous undergraduate study, but it is noteworthy that completing a creative arts postgraduate programme leads to significantly higher earnings (approximately 10%).
  5. Clerical and retail work appear to be high for creative arts graduates. However, when aligned to all subjects, these are equally high for all graduates.